Keeping up with Time Zones

11 AM. Like clockwork, the phone rings. Caller ID shows it’s an Australian number, most probably one of my aunts or uncles calling to check in. I’m still in bed, semi-awake. My mother answers and proceeds to have a gossip session on the latest family drama. When I decide to get up and check my cell phone, I’ve got a bunch of messages from cousins and friends in Australia who have been up hours before me. Fast forward to the afternoon, my phone buzzes again. It’s a message from my friend in California who has just woken up and responding to the message I sent her in the morning. Fast forward again, it’s late evening and my cousin from London is calling on Skype. After talking with her and her husband for an hour or so, I hop into bed, say a prayer, and eventually fall asleep.

That’s more or less a typical Sunday in my household. I hate to state the obvious, but distance sucks. I wish there was a way for all the important people in my life to be close to me because I feel like my heart is split into many pieces and scattered across the globe… Some might consider it advantageous to have friends and family around the world due to the travel opportunities it provides, but that’s probably the only benefit. Nothing hurts more than missing significant milestones in the life of someone I love, and them not being there for mine. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, Christmas, the list is endless. I guess you could say I have separation anxiety because the thought of someone being away from me freaks me out. In a few months, I’ll be graduating alongside the solid group of friends I built over the years after moving to Lebanon, meaning we might have to separate. Alas, c’est la vie, and I’m just going to have to accept it as much as it hurts.

One thing separation has taught me is valuing the physical presence of someone. It’s made me so much more appreciative of the time we have together, whether it’s long or short. I’ve also become so much more grateful for modern day technology that allows for quick and easy communication. Despite having to work around time zones, I can’t imagine having to wait months for a letter to arrive in the mail to hear from someone (though I don’t mind a nice handwritten letter sometimes, especially on special occasions).

Do you have family or friends abroad? How do you deal with separation?

Senior Reflections

This week I’ll be heading into my last ever semester at university while others will head into their first. I still remember my first day at Uni like it were yesterday; there are so many things I know now that I wish I’d known then that would have made life so much easier for a shy, anxious freshman like myself. I often reflect on that time now that I’m a senior, and if I could go back to that first day:

I’d tell myself that it’s okay to let go of those high school friendships that I valued so much. None of my close friends attended the same university as me; they all went to another university together. It was really hard to adjust to the idea that while they could all take classes together, share dorm rooms, and hang out during breaks, I had no-one. During my breaks I would go to their university to see them as it was within walking distance from mine. I wanted so badly for things not to change. But I eventually stopped visiting and this only benefitted me because if I had been stuck with my high school friends throughout university I would’ve never had the chance to build new lifelong friendships. Not all high school friendships are meant to last; things change and you eventually grow apart and that’s all right because some of those friendships were based solely on convenience i.e. the fact that you were together 5 days a week for 5 years.

I’d tell myself to be more active and join a university sport team or student club. I waited till my junior year to do this and have regretted it since. It’s a great way to put yourself out there and meet people who share the same interests as you. Not to mention you’ll be doing something useful with your time and engaging in activities you love.

I’d tell myself to work harder on my GPA. During the first year of Uni you should look to acquire the highest possible GPA because you’ll be taking basic courses that are essentially a recap of those you took in high school. The course load will only get harder and denser over the years and it won’t be easy to keep your GPA up. Grades do matter, as I would later find out when applying for internships and many companies requested a copy of my transcript.

I’d tell myself to choose better elective courses. A lot of people choose electives for the sake of grades and I don’t blame them. But if there’s something you’re passionate about besides the major you’re already pursuing, then why not choose your elective courses based on that and get a minor or diploma out of it? I took an interest to journalism later on in my university life; I was majoring in Finance and decided to do a minor in Media Studies after hearing about the program through a friend. However, this meant I had to stay an extra semester and couldn’t graduate on time. I don’t regret my decision because I’ve loved each of my Media courses till now, but if I had taken media courses as electives earlier on instead of the other random courses I chose then I wouldn’t have been behind.

I’d tell myself to make friends with professors. Forget about looking like the teacher’s pet, these are the people you’re going to want to keep in contact with after graduation. Networking is an essential step in landing your dream job and you shouldn’t wait till after graduation to do it. Besides, it won’t hurt to have a few friends in the industry that you can reach out to for advice or a recommendation.

I’d tell myself to get out of my comfort zone and do a semester abroad. My university offers many semester abroad programs around the world. A friend of mine did a semester abroad in the U.S and another friend went to Paris, France. Not only is it an amazing experience but a great opportunity to travel and discover different parts of the world. I guess I was too scared to make a big life change at the time and didn’t want to be away from my family & friends for 6 months. If the opportunity were to present itself again though, I’d definitely take it.

To all those about to embark on their university journey, I hope this was helpful. The thought that in a few months I will be an alumnus makes me cringe. I grew to love university life and all that comes with it. It’s one of those wonderful life experiences you can never get back so make the most of it and good luck!

Lost

I’m at that stage in my life just before my last semester of college where i’m constantly thinking about my future. Where will i end up working? Am i going to move away? Should i apply to grad school? So many questions flooding my mind, if only I had some answers.

I’m not quite sure what i want to do or where i want to go after graduation. I feel so lost. I don’t see myself working in Lebanon, at least not permanently. I could always return to Australia, the place I grew up. It’s familiar territory after all. But i’ve come to realize that’s exactly what I don’t want. Although the idea of returning to my first home is comforting, i’m much more eager to delve into the unknown, the unfamiliar. But where to go?

Many people take a gap year to clear their mind and ‘find themselves’ but all i’m looking for is a fresh start. As much as I love travel I have plenty of time to do that once i’ve settled somewhere. Needless to say, I’m not going to settle for any job offer I get because I don’t want to limit myself in any way. Sure, any offer is better than nothing, “everybody starts somewhere”, they say. But I don’t just want a fresh start, I want a good start.

Most recent college graduates in Lebanon end up in the Emirates, Europe, or the States and i’ll most likely end up following them. Would I be happy in any of these places though? I guess I’ll never know unless I try.

“Great things never came from comfort zones.”

Where is the Love?

Who remembers when the Black Eyed Peas’ hit song “Where is the love?” came out? It was the year 2003 and sadly more than 10 years later the lyrics are still relevant. With everything going on in the world today I cringe every time I hear this song because it’s a reminder of how little humanity has progressed. Why does war still exist? How is it still okay that innocent lives are taken each day in the name of power and greed? It breaks my heart to think about what future generations will be studying in their history books, pretty much the same scenarios we studied only with different victims. I can only hope that in my lifetime the world will see peace.

Food For Thought

Do you ever take a moment to reflect on where the world is headed? It’s fascinating to see how advanced we’ve become yet I can’t help but wonder sometimes if we’ve taken 2 steps forward and 1 step back.

Sitting at a café the other day I witnessed almost every customer grab hold of a cell phone at some point, many of whom had company on the table. It’s disappointing that some people can’t hold up face-to-face conversations anymore without having to check their cell phones. I’ve been guilty of doing this on numerous occasions but I’ve been trying to cut down on it. It’s actually quite scary how technological dependent many of us have become nowadays. As a 90’s kid I would’ve never guessed that one day I would own a portable mobile device, laptop, and a bunch of other gadgets. There is no denying that these things have made life so much easier for me and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, without them I wouldn’t be able to express my thoughts and opinions on this blog for example. I do believe however that there is a time and place for everything, and being that person who’s always on their cell phone when they have company is not someone I wish to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people should quit electronic communication, but there is a time to text and a time to listen and take in one’s surroundings. Do you agree?

On another note, when did handwritten letters or cards become uncool? One of the few things that brings me great joy these days is sending or receiving a handwritten letter in the mail. Texting or e-mailing is quick & simple but when someone takes the time to sit down and write out something for me it truly shows how much they care, and I never take it for granted. For my best friend’s 21st birthday last month I made sure to include a handwritten card consisting of 21 things I love about her along with her gift, and she absolutely loved it.

Ending this post with a quote from Meredith Grey, my fictional therapist:

“Communication. It’s the first thing we really learn in life. Funny thing is, once we grow up, learn our words and really start talking, the harder it becomes to know what to say. Or how to ask for what we really need.”

6 Things I Miss About Australia

What is home to you? Some would say wherever family is at, others simply call it a place they return to every night, and then there’s people who give a poetic response like “home is where the heart is.” I’m one of those people.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in Australia and although I no longer live there I think about it often and long to return sometimes.  The memories of childhood are embedded in my heart and my face lights up every time I reminisce… The same way my father’s face lights up when he shows us around the village he grew up in, the same way my aunt speaks of the country she immigrated from when she was a teen, the same way my American professor at university uses references from his all-American childhood to explain concepts. Although I’m building new memories where I am now, there are some things my new country of residence cannot replace.

Here are 6 things I miss about Australia in no particular order:

1. The beaches: It is no question that Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and the best part? Entrance is totally free unlike many Mediterranean and European cities where you have to pay a fee to access the beach or to rent a beach chair for the day.

2. Multiculturalism: At any given moment in Australia, you could be surrounded by a Chinese, Indian, Greek, Croatian, Italian, Lebanese, Philipino etc. Being around all these different people gives you a diverse and tolerant outlook on life.

3. The accent: This one speaks for itself. I’m a sucker for accents, mate.

4. Meat pies: If you haven’t had a meat pie with gravy and mashed potato, you have not lived.

5. Family: My extended family is pretty big and there’s nothing I miss more than being surrounded by cousins, aunties, and uncles on holidays and major life events such as weddings and christenings.

6. Rugby: I was sort of a tomboy growing up and rugby has a huge following in Australia. I always looked forward to ‘footy’ season where all my cousins and I would head to the stadium to support our local team.

Forgive Don’t Forget

Over a year ago I lost immediate contact with someone I considered one of my closest high school friends. There was no particular reason for it really, we just drifted apart and although I made an effort to stay in touch I didn’t feel there was mutual interest in saving the friendship. I was hurt and carried much resentment for a long time because I couldn’t fathom the idea of how quickly things could change. She moved to Canada a few months ago and all hope was lost, not because there was more distance between us but because I finally accepted that things could never go back to how they once were.

I woke up to a message from her yesterday saying how much she missed our friendship and taking blame for its collapse. I was surprised to hear from her yet appreciated the fact that she’d reached out and apologized. It was the first time she had acknowledged what had happened. Better late than never, right?

I’m a big believer that travel can change someone, makes them realize what truly matters and shapes them into a better person. I guess moving to Canada had that effect on her and she was ready to make up and rekindle our friendship. And after such a long time, so was I. We ended up exchanging numbers and have been messaging since. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to be able to put it behind me; holding grudges drains you and I feel like a massive weight was lifted from my shoulders once I was able to release all my bottled up emotions. I’m not saying all is forgotten and things are magically resolved, my mother always taught me to forgive but not forget. What I can say though is that I’m mature enough to accept that people make mistakes, and wise enough to know that forgiveness is worth much more than lifelong grudges.